NFL Wild Card Picks Against the Spread

In this week's Wild Card playoff matchups, we delve into six games where potential opportunities abound. This marks the fourth year of the NFL's 17-game, 18-week format. The 7th seeds have yet to secure a victory, standing at 0-6 during this period. Join us as we analyze each game, concluding with insights into the matchups where confidence in predictions is at its peak.

Cleveland @ Houston 2.5

Cleveland enters the matchup against Houston as a 2.5-point favorite, with several key factors influencing the game. Houston's offensive struggles without Tank Dell and concerns about Joe Flacco's interceptions are countered by the playoff experience and intensity he brings to the Browns. Here's a breakdown of the key considerations:

  • Tank Dell Impact: Houston's offense has suffered in Dell's absence, especially in the passing game. They are too single threaded with Nico Collins.

  • Flacco's Playoff Record: Joe Flacco boasts an impressive 5-0 Wild Card record and an 11-4 ATS record.

  • Rookie QBs in Playoffs: Historical data suggests quarterbacks in their first postseason appearance tend to struggle, with a 39% ATS success rate since 2002.

  • Strength of Schedule (SOS): Cleveland faces a tougher SOS compared to Houston.

  • Concerns about Flacco: Despite worries about interceptions and Browns' road performance, the playoff intensity is expected to favor the veteran QB.

  • 2nd visit concerns: The Houston defense has seen Flacco this year but the Browns haven’t seen CJ Stroud.

Pick: Cleveland -2.5

Miami @ Kansas City -4.5

In a game where the Kansas City Chiefs host the Miami Dolphins with a 4.5-point favor, several key factors come into play for handicapping. The rematch scenario, adverse weather conditions in KC, and missing defensive pieces for the Dolphins are crucial elements to consider. Here's a concise breakdown:

  • Adverse Weather Conditions: Anticipated snow, wind, and a windchill of -10 degrees in Kansas City could significantly impact the game.

  • Rematch Factor: In Frankfurt, KC dominated with a 21-0 lead at halftime, and the expectation is that their defense will replicate its strong performance.

  • Missing Defensive Piece: Bradley Chubb's absence on the Dolphins' defense could prove detrimental against the Chiefs. 

  • Impact of Weather on Injured Player: Mostert returning from a serious injury in cold weather may pose challenges for the Dolphins.

  • Dolphins' Struggles on the Road: Miami's poor record against teams over .500, coupled with the challenges of playing on the road and adverse weather, raises concerns.

Pick: Kansas City -4.5

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo -10

The Buffalo Bills are favored by 10 points against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a windy Sunday morning. The absence of TJ Watt, the leader in NFL sacks, poses a significant challenge for the Steelers' defense, compounded by adverse weather conditions with winds exceeding 25mph. Despite the Bills' recent winning streak and the status of the 7th seed in the NFL, historical trends and Tomlin's performance as an underdog suggest a closer contest. Here's a breakdown:

  • Weather Concerns: With winds exceeding 25mph, weather conditions leads to a run-heavy game.

  • Strength of Schedule (SOS): The Steelers have faced a tougher SOS compared to the Bills.

  • Tomlin's ATS Record as an Underdog: Mike Tomlin has a strong ATS record of 55-33 when the Steelers are considered underdogs.

  • Historical Trends: The 7th seed has yet to secure a victory in the NFL, and double-digit favorites in the playoffs have an 11-4 record.

  • Bills' Winning Streak: Buffalo enters the game with momentum, having won the last five games.

  • Recent Historical Example: Last year, Miami went to Buffalo as a double-digit favorite and lost but only by 3 points.

  • Turnover Concerns: Since 2022, the Josh Allen has recorded 41 giveaways and 32 interceptions, among the highest in the NFL.

Pick: Pittsburgh +10

Green Bay @ Dallas -7.5

The Dallas Cowboys are favored by 7.5 points against the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys' playoff struggles, particularly with a 5-12 record since 1996 and Dak Prescott's 1-5 playoff record, raise questions about their postseason performance. Jordan Love's contrasting performances and the Packers' potent passing offense, coupled with the added pressure on Mike McCarthy facing his former team, make the spread seem too high. While the Cowboys' defense and home field advantage are considerations, the factors favor a closer contest. Here's a breakdown:

Pick: Green Bay +7.5

LA Rams @ Detroit -3

In the upcoming matchup, the focus is often on Sean McVay's knowledge of Jared Goff. Dan Campbell brings intensity and inspiration, but there's a conspiracy theory suggesting the NFL might not want the Lions in the playoffs for an extended period. The Lions are dealing with injuries, having lost LaPorta last week, while the Rams, coming off a bye week, essentially rested their starters. Cooper Kupp, who has established a playoff legacy, now confronts a below-average defense.

Pick: LA Rams +3

Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay 3

Concluding the season with a 1-5 record, the Eagles find themselves at their lowest point in terms of performance. The Buccaneers, too, appear to be struggling, having lost to the Saints and failing to score a touchdown against the Panthers. Preferring Jalen Hurts over Baker Mayfield, the Eagles seem comparable to the team from seven weeks ago, with a belief in their superior talent compared to Tampa. With key players like Swift, Slay, and Smith expected to play and the team getting healthier, the pick is in favor of the Eagles.

Pick: Philadelphia -3

The most confident picks for this week are:

1. Kansas City -4.5

2. Green Bay +7.5

3. Philadelphia -3